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Parma Firefighter to Receive Back Pay, Benefits

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According to a ruling today by the Eighth District Court of Appeals, the city of Parma will be ordered to pay back pay and benefits to a fired Parma firefighter who was reinstated.

A fired Parma firefighter will receive back pay and benefits for the 21 months that lapsed between an arbitrator’s decision and his reinstatement after a ruling Wednesday by the Eighth District Court of Appeals.

The 3-0 decision, authored by Judge Kathleen Ann Keough, reversed and remanded the case to the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

Parma discharged 15-year firefighter Anthony DeCarlo on December 8, 2009 over allegations of a positive cocaine drug test. Nearly a year later, an arbitrator found the city did not have just cause to terminate him and ordered him to be “promptly reinstated” without retroactive back pay or benefits. Parma challenged the arbitration award in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, which confirmed and enforced the award on September 1, 2011.

The Eighth District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order on March 8, 2012. The Ohio Supreme Court declined jurisdiction to consider the city’s appeal on July 25, 2012. DeCarlo was reinstated on August 15, 2012, but placed on leave until a disciplinary hearing about whether he lied about his drug use during the arbitration hearing.

On November 8, 2012, the trial court denied the union’s motion to find the city in contempt for refusing to reinstate DeCarlo and pay him back pay. In today’s ruling, the appeals court instructed the trial court to order the city to pay back pay and benefits to DeCarlo from December 3, 2010 until August 15, 2012.

Judge Keough wrote that the city’s argument that the trial court’s judgment did not “clearly and definitely” require it to compensate DeCarlo was “specious.”

After acknowledging to the trial court that it had a duty to compensate DeCarlo, Judge Keough wrote that “the city’s assertion now to this court that it has no obligation to pay DeCarlo any compensation for the 21 months the city refused to reinstate him flies in the face of the representation it made to the trial court, and we reject it.”

“The trial court’s judgment confirming and enforcing the arbitrator’s award required the payment of back pay from the date of the arbitrator’s award until the reinstatement date,” according to Judge Keough.

“In denying the union’s motion to show cause, it is apparent that the trial court relied on the city’s representations that it had both reinstated DeCarlo and intended to pay him back pay after it received appropriate documentation,” she continued. “However, because the city refused to pay DeCarlo any back pay, and thus did not comply with the trial court’s judgment confirming and enforcing the arbitrator’s award, we are constrained to find that the trial court abused its discretion in not finding the city in contempt.”

Judges Larry A. Jones Sr. and Eileen A. Gallagher concurred in the opinion.

Parma v. Parma Firefighters Assn., Local 639, 2013-Ohio-2918
Opinion: http://www.sc.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/8/2013/2013-ohio-2918.pdf
Civil Appeal From: Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court
Judgment Appealed From Is: Reversed and Remanded
Date of Judgment Entry on Appeal: July 3, 2013

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